Before it became law in 1939, there were tens of thousands of girls signed up to the Hitler Youth organisations. The League of German Girls (Bund Deutscher Mädel [BDM]) was the female section of the Hitler Youth founded in 1930. The purpose of BDM was to indoctrinate girls into the beliefs and ideals of the Nazi regime. This was a clever government program to create generations of girls dedicated to Nazism, being dutiful housewives, and whose primary purpose within society was to become a mother. The roles of girls and the women they would become was completely designed and proscribed by the government – total obedience.
You had to have German parents, be healthy, and conform to Nazi racial ideals to be a BDM member. This was a club that girls wanted to belong to, for the most part. If you were not a member, you were shunned and treated badly by those who were. This public shaming was a common practice of the Nazis. Their education included modified versions of history and science to support the Nazi beliefs of Aryan racial superiority.
BDM girls served the regime in ways beyond just being good Nazis. They had mandatory domestic and agricultural labor to perform as well as supporting the troops with choral performances. Above all, they kept physically fit, to be perfect child-bearing vessels for future Nazis. This photograph is a terrifying reminder of not only what young people were capable of doing during the rise of Hitler and beyond, but also the power of group mentality, especially one lead by a government that is allowed to span generations. It is only a matter of time before they didn’t know any different or any better.
-Ashley E. Remer
Girl Museum Inc.
Girl Museum is currently producing an exhibition about Girl Groups, the positive ones. If you were a member of a girl group (i.e. Girl Guides or Scouts), please get in touch.
This post is part of our 52 Objects in the History of Girlhood exhibition. Each week during 2017, we explore a historical object and its relation to girls’ history. Stay tuned to discover the incredible history of girls, and be sure to visit the complete exhibition to discover the integral role girls have played since the dawn of time.